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June 22, 2005

Colorful Politics

Dear Color Commentators:

A few events this week reminded us that not too many years ago DC politics used to be colorful as well as corrupt. If I could have chosen which quality to keep, I’d have retained the colorful eccentricity, but our politicians chose another direction. However, laughable, colorful events this week reminded me of the good old days. The police chief’s official car was stolen, and still hasn’t been found. Giant Food expropriated a public sidewalk in front of its new supermarket in Columbia Heights, cutting an illegal pickup lane out of the sidewalk without ever applying for a permit. The city government responded that it will attempt to negotiate with Giant in order to effect a compromise. What’s the compromise position between obeying and breaking the law, and where’s the city office that I can go to so I can negotiate ways in which I can flout the law? Barbara Bullock, the jailed ex-president of the Washington Teachers Union, testified today in the trial of her former union associates that not only did she embezzle millions of dollars from the union, but she also didn’t pay any federal or District taxes since the mid-1980’s. She wasn’t a day laborer being paid in cash; she was the president of a major union local. How did she get away with paying no taxes for nearly twenty years? (WUSA reporter Bruce Johnson asked Mayor Williams this afternoon how Bullock, with her political prominence, could escape DC taxes throughout the period when Williams, as Chief Financial Officer, was making a major effort to improve tax collection. Williams passed the question on to Natwar Gandhi, the current CFO [].)

Best of all in the past week was Councilmember Carol Schwartz, who did the riskiest thing anyone can do in politics — she used humor. Carol introduced the “Worker Occupational Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2005, Part II,” which parodied the bill currently in the city council to ban smoking in bars and restaurants with a bill to ban drinking alcohol in bars and restaurants. Humor is a risk because there’s always somebody who won’t get the joke, no matter how many times it’s explained, but Carol did worse than use humor -- she used dead-on and accurate satire and sarcasm, for which her colleagues will probably never forgive her. The press hasn’t given full credit to her speech in the council introducing the bill, which deserves to be read in full:

Corrections: when I added Dorothy’s item to the last issue of themail (June 19), I made two mistakes, which have been corrected in the online version: Barbara Bullock was sentenced to nine, not seven years imprisonment; and the correct name of one of the potential Ward 5 council candidates is Regina James, as helpfully pointed out by her fellow Ward 5 ANC commissioner Cary Clennon,

Gary Imhoff


Parking Spaces Hijacked
Ralph Blessing,

First the chain link fence went up creating an enclosed lane in the 600 block of Maryland Avenue, SW, adjacent to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. Then the parking meters were removed. Now the curbside parking that formerly had been available to the public is “reserved” everyday for construction workers at an adjoining building site. Since the sidewalk is still open to the public, this move clearly can't be considered a safety measure. But what else could it be? Certainly not a freebie for developers at the expense of the rest of us. Not in DC.


Better Get Lojack
Ed T. Barron, etdb@aoldotcom

Police Chief Ramsey had his unmarked cruiser stolen from right in front of his house this week. Hard to believe that the car's alarm system did not alert the Chief. If you cannot lock your car up in a garage, or even fit it into your garage with all the other stuff there, then you ought to consider a Lojack system. Lojack is a tracking system that can be turned on remotely by the DC police if you report your car stolen. Then the car can be tracked right to the exact location where it can be found. Lojack developers report a 90 plus percent recovery rate for cars so equipped.


Sole Source Contracts
Arthur Spitzer, (speaking purely personally)

Two weeks ago (June 8), themail reported that the DC Auditor found that “sole source agreements issued . . . by the Executive Office of the Mayor and Office of the City Administrator revealed a failure to follow sound procurement policies and procedures and to comply with the spirit, intent, and letter of the Procurement Practices Act of 1985, as amended, and procurement regulations.”

If DC Councilmembers are really, truly, actually, for real, interested in putting a stop to sole source contracts that don't comply with the statute and the regulations, all the Council has to do is add a provision along these lines (over the Mayor's veto): “Any DC taxpayer shall have standing to file a civil action in Superior Court seeking appropriate remedies for a sole source contract that was issued without complying with the Procurement Practices Act of 1985, as amended, and relevant procurement regulations. The suit shall name as defendants the District, the contractor, and the most senior official who signed or authorized the contract. If the court finds that the contract was issued without complying with said Act and regulations, it shall (a) declare the contract null and void; (b) require the contractor to refund to the District all monies paid under the contract; (c) order the most senior official who signed or authorized the contract to pay a civil fine equal to 25% of his or her annual salary, which may not be subject to indemnification by the District; and (d) award to the plaintiff a sum equal to 10% of the monies paid under the contract, plus his or her reasonable attorney's fees and expenses. The District, the contractor, and the most senior official who signed or authorized the contract shall be jointly and severally liable for this award.”

In addition to its other advantages, this will enable Gary and Dorothy to retire in comfort, someday.


The Mayor’s Schedule
Dorothy Brizill,

In the past two weeks, Mayor Williams has traveled to Beijing, Chicago, and London. Thursday morning, he will depart the District for Puerto Rico to attend the national leadership program and annual conference of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Williams will be in Puerto Rico through the weekend, attending the meeting in his capacity as president of the National League of Cities.

It should be noted that, while his schedule over the past few weeks has included numerous trips outside the District, Mayor Williams, the self-proclaimed "education mayor," has not found time to attend a single graduation ceremony at any college, university, public, private, or charter school in the District. Despite the conclusion that Lori Montgomery reaches in her article in today’s Washington Post, “Williams Sightings Spark Talk of Run” (, many Williams observers, including myself, believe that his frequent trips out of town and his failure to participate in or attend important civic and ceremonial events indicate that he will not be seeking a third term as mayor in 2006.


Whitewashing White Flight
Ed Dixon, Georgetown Reservoir,

White flight is a term associated with the desegregation of the city's public schools and the growth of its suburbs. In the 40's and 50's, real estate agents used racial scare tactics to clear neighborhoods in hopes of making a profit on the turnover into the suburbs. At roughly the same time, the rulings on Bolling vs. Sharpe and Brown vs. the Board, marked the point in which DC public schools went from majority white schools to majority African American schools. Some parents switched over to private schools, but large numbers of white public school parents cleared out of the city altogether and helped build the public school districts in the suburbs.

One of the arguments that proponents have been making for the government’s financial support of private schools is that it attracts residents back into the city. Most private schools that the government are financing are majority white schools, so presumably the new residents this policy is supporting are primarily white residents. Many of the private schools are indeed expanding under this government support and so, arguably, some of the new private school parents (again majority white) could reside in the city.

But a couple details are not addressed in this argument. The declared residency of DC private school students is not public information, outside of a few partial accounts due to special education contracts. Moreover, it would be difficult to get the individual private schools or the parent organization, the Association of Independent Schools, to help since they are not required to do so and the tally may not prove to be in their best interest. Secondly, the government cannot document that the same or greater numbers of dissatisfied parents are not giving up hope because of the public schools and moving to suburbs. Many public school white parents still decide that the city does not act responsibly in regard to public education and move to the suburbs. Again, information would be hard to gather in this regard because the city doesn't require exit interviews for dissatisfied public school parents.


Peggy Cooper Cafritz for City Council Chair
Arthur H. Jackson,

Her style is sometimes threatening, because she is a no-nonsense parent who seriously cares about the children of our city, left behind whenever budgets are prepared, ignored and forgotten whenever the fruits of our city are distributed, and the first children to receive old worn out books and materials wealthier schools no longer need. Established politicians were shocked at her independence as president of the school board and at her desire to ensure that all city children, even those in East of the River Communities, were treated fairly and given equal access to city services. As Chairman Cropp ponders a run for Mayor, we need to consider a strong, no-nonsense leader to replace her, and there is one non-candidate, non-career-politician with the guts to stand up for our city and its children, and she is Peggy Cooper Cafritz. She will be no rubber-stamp for Mayor Williams or whoever is elected mayor. A fiscally conservative Democrat, Peggy Cooper Cafritz will bring to the Chair's seat innovation, vision, and integrity, something that has been lacking during the present era of the Williams administration, as reflected in the recent teachers union trial. Parents and students would have a strong supporter of children and education. She would appoint committee chairs not by seniority but by their ability to produce results.

Recently she challenged the awarding of a contract to a District of Columbia Certified Local Small Disadvantaged Business Enterprise for security, questioning the firm's ability to perform the duties of the job. But I know that she is not anti-L.S.D.B.E., because during her run for the President of the School Board, she retained my firm, The AHJ Group, to provide advice and guidance on locating District-based L.S.D.B.E. certified printing and specialty services contractors. One must remember that Peggy Cooper Cafritz cares about the bottom line. We cannot shortchange the security of our children, and, as Chairperson of the City Council, she will watch spending and appropriations very closely. In her two elections, she carried all eight wards overwhelmingly, and she is known as a full time president who rolls up her sleeves and demands the best for our children.

While I am not advocating a Draft Peggy Cooper Cafritz committee, I believe at this time in our history, our city will need a Council Chairperson who is a fiscal conservative and strong on education, who will monitor contracting and demand that her colleagues work as hard as she does to get the job done. How many city politicians have actually sent city students (other than their own) to college? How many city politicians have the guts to challenge a multi-million-dollar contract, and how many can independently lead our city council, and tell the mayor and even congress no, whenever it is needed in the best interest of city's present and future?


Nineteen Members of CBC
Steve Lerasis,

I find it hard to believe that nineteen current members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) including Chairman, Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC) are not cosponsors of HR 398, “To Provide for Full Voting Representation for Citizens of DC.” In fact, the CBC's web site doesn't even list DC voting representation as one of its agenda items for the 109th Congress. This also raises the question of where are the various groups and our shadow representatives in gathering support for HR 398 and S. 195.

For further information, see,, or contact the Congressional Black Caucus, 2236 Rayburn Building, 20515, phone 226-9776, fax 225-1512.


Nanny Laws and Smoking
Glendora Walker,

I'm fifty, never had a smoking habit, and will be the first to say “smoking is bad.” Getting to the point, it's not fair to keep smokers from dining out if the restaurant has a place set aside for smokers. They have rights also. My husband smokes, and we always ask first if there is a smoking section before we sit down to dine. When the answer is no, we don't get upset because we understand.

The workplace policy of smoking outdoors, we all agreed with that, both smokers and nonsmokers. But this problem should not get out of hand.



Medley of Travels, June 25
Debra Truhart,

Saturday, June 25, 12:30 p.m., Juanita E. Thornton/Shepherd Park Neighborhood Library, 7420 Georgia Avenue, NW. Author Dorothy M. Boggess will discuss her book, Medley of Travels. Public contact: 541-6100.


National Building Museum Events, June 25, 28
Brie Hensold,

Both events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.

Saturday, June 25, 1:00-2:30 p.m. Film: Philip Johnson: Diary of an Eccentric Architect. Narrated by Philip Johnson himself, this film (76 minutes, 1996) presents his work, the importance of the act of creating architecture, the actual construction of a design plan, and the steps taken to ensure that his architectural creations interact with their environment. The focus is on Johnson's buildings and their surroundings in New Canaan, Connecticut. Free. Registration not required.

Wednesday, June 28, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Seminar: Green Building Guidelines. In this intensive seminar cosponsored with the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council (SBIC), home builders, architects, and remodelers will learn about sustainable home building design. Paul Konove, president of Carolina Country Builders of Chatham County, Inc., will cover such topics as sustainable site planning, increased energy efficiency, and environmentally sound building materials and construction waste management practices. Seminar participants receive a complimentary copy of SBIC's extensive manual Green Building Guidelines. For more details about the seminar, visit $100 Museum and SBIC members; $130 nonmembers. Prepaid registration required.


DC for Democracy Barbecue Picnic, June 26
Rachel Perrone,

I'd like to invite you to DC for Democracy's second annual founders BBQ picnic on June 26, 1:00-5:00 p.m., in Rock Creek Park. We'll be celebrating the successes of the last year and gearing up for our action in 2005 and 2006. We'll also have food, live entertainment, and games, and we've placed an order for sunny skies. Below are just a few of our success stories that have taken place since our Founding BBQ last June: sent over 250 people on the campaign trail in battleground states last fall with over 15,000 voter contacts; provided 6,215 hours of door knocking and voter registration, organized voter education campaign for DC School Board Elections in 2004, elected over twenty members to DC Democratic State Committee and Ward Democratic Party leadership committees, organized kickoff rally for DNC Chair Governor Howard Dean with over 1,500 attending; hosted community forums on DC Public Schools and adopted Spingarn Senior High School for a day of volunteer community action.

Over the next year, we'll continue building our membership by focusing on DC issue education and activation -- including continuing the fight for full voting representation. In addition, 2005 provides us a unique opportunity to partner with Virginia and national organizations to target Northern Virginia local elections this fall. We'll be launching an “Adopt a Precinct” program for some targeted races to elect progressives across the river — as well as have the added benefit of building the skills and training of our political activists and volunteers to make their work in DC's 2006 Mayoral, Council and School Board elections even more successful than in 2004.

We'd love to have you attend and invite you to become a sponsor or patron of the event. Sponsors and patrons will have their name included on the web site promotion for the event, as well as be included in a mailing to our 2,400 members in advance of the June 26th event. To RSVP, or for more information please visit our web site: We hope you will save the date and RSVP to attend and sponsor.


Smith Farm Center for the Healing Arts, June 30 and July 9
Greg Finch,

The Healing Wisdom Book Club, for adults with cancer and their caregivers, meets the last Thursday of every month at Smith Farm Center for the Healing Arts, 1632 U Street, NW. Metro accessible, Red and Green lines. On Thursday, June 30, noon–1:30 p.m., Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal, with Carole O’Toole. Bring your own brown bag lunch. Drinks will be provided. Find healing from the written word while sharing wisdom with fellow book lovers and cancer survivors. June participants will discuss Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal by Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, cofounder of Commonweal Cancer Help Program. The collection of remarkable stories is stunning in its ability to reunite us with our own sacredness and the joy of being fully human, in all its joy and pain. Daniel Goldman writes, “…Rachel Naomi Remen is nature’s gift to us, a genius of that elusive and crucial capacity, the human heart. She has much to teach us about healing, loving and living.” Carole O’Toole is a cancer coach in private practice, focusing on integrative cancer care and the spiritual path of survivorship. She has long served as a patient advocate and public speaker on the issue of cancer and complementary medicine and is co-author of “Healing Outside the Margins.” Carole is celebrating her tenth year cancer-free.

Living Well with Cancer Day-Long Retreat, Saturday, July 9, 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m., $15 per person includes retreat, vegetarian lunch, and all materials. Smith Farm Center for the Healing Arts U Street Community Center, 1632 U Street NW. Help strengthen your innate healing mechanism by learning ways to balance mainstream medical treatment with your own desire to live a healthier, more fulfilling life. Smith Farm Day-Long Retreats offer nonmedical, educational, hands-on programs for adult cancer patients and their caregivers. Living Well with Cancer retreats include yoga, meditation, deep relaxation, imagery, group work, and a delicious vegetarian meal.

To register for either event or for more information call 483-8600 or visit


Equal Voting Rights for DC Rally, July 1
Shawn Rolland,

On Friday, July 1, rally for DC voting rights with twelve pro-DC voting rights organizations as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly holds its annual session in Washington, DC. A series of events are planned and designed to encourage the more than three hundred international diplomats to pass a resolution supporting full congressional voting rights for DC.

1) From 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., we need volunteers to rally outside of the host hotel, the JW Marriott on 14th Street at Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to greet the parliamentarians as they arrive for the beginning of their weekend long meeting. 2) At 12:00 noon on the western side of Freedom Plaza, Mayor Williams and DC Vote will unveil an artistic installation created to visually represent DC's denial of democracy. Keep checking out DC Vote's "Equal Voting Rights for DC" International Rallies event page for more details as the installation approaches. 3) Immediately following the unveiling of the installation, we need volunteers to rally outside of the JW Marriott on 14th Street at Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to greet Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert as they arrive to address the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

To RSVP, send an E-mail to, and indicate which event or events you plan to attend. For more information, go to To see which organizations are cosponsors, go to


MOMIE’s Poetic Summer Benefit, July 29
Robbin Lewis,

M.O.M.I.E’S TLC (Mentors of Minorities In Education’s Total Learning Cis-Tern), poetic summer benefit. Suggested donation $5 to $1,000. Come and support M.O.M.I.E.’S TLC and our community poets as they speak works of hope and truth for the children. July 29, from 7 p.m.-10 p.m. Join us at the Potter’s House, 1658 Columbia Road, NW, in Adams Morgan, two blocks off 16th Street. Call 240-286-3765 for more information. Speaking of our children, spoken words of hope and truth; poetry reading by poets from the Poetry Fix: Michelle Sewell, Drew "Droopy" Anderson, and Charneice Fox; along with open mic segments for you, voices from the community (audience members) to share poetry about our children.



Sierra Club Seeks Administrative Assistant
Jason Broehm,

The Washington, DC, chapter of the Sierra Club seeks a half-time administrative assistant to assist in promoting the activities of the organization’s local conservation efforts. Duties include helping recruit and activate volunteers, coordinating membership events, responding to inquiries and providing general office support. Job requires environmental commitment, excellent communication skills, and the ability to work well with volunteers, members, and the public. Proficiency with computers and office experience required. Hours are somewhat flexible but require some work day hours in office and some evening hours to attend meetings and events. Salary range $14-16/hour plus an opportunity for benefits. The Sierra Club is an equal employment opportunity employer. For more information about the position, please visit our website:

Please E-mail resume and cover letter to Jason Broehm at



Guitar Needed for Beginning Guitar Player
Phil Shapiro,

A cab driver friend of mine tells me he would love to learn to play guitar. I've offered to give him some free lessons and am on the lookout for a donated guitar that he can start his learning on. I can come by to pick it up.


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